Men urged to reach out as we're dubbed drought 'epicentre'
WHILE the Southern Downs is not alone in the battle against the big dry, our farmers are fighting from what has been called the 'epicentre of the drought'.
Member for Maranoa David Littleproud said although many of the state's farmers had received some pre-winter rain to get them through the season, many Southern Downs farmers were not so lucky.
And as the drought takes its toll, farmers are being urged to speak up and take the help out there for them.
A wool broker who was motivated to change careers because of the devastating drought is part of a program just getting off the ground on the Southern Downs to help battling rural men.
David Henderson has recently been appointed as a community development facilitator at Lifeline, which started the Community Connections program at the beginning of this month.
It's targeted towards rural men who are not putting their hands up for help.
Mr Henderson works with them to find out their needs, identifying reasons they're not seeking services and helping to put them in touch with available support systems.
He's calling for producers to share where their needs lie to help connect them with the services, as well as give an insight into what support the community needs as a whole.
"There are great services but people are not taking them up,” Mr Henderson said.
Mr Henderson said with growing up on a family property at Goondiwindi then entering a career in agribusiness, he had spent time talking to producers morning, noon and night.
He watched the drought take hold over the past three years and left his career in agribusiness and decided to take up the role at Lifeline instead.
When the Federal Drought Commissioner identified rural men as those who were not taking up drought assistance services, Mr Henderson's life experience told him the commissioner was right.
His new role sees him covering both the Southern Downs and Goondiwindi council areas for the Community Connections program, which is funded by Darling Downs and West Moreton Public Health Network.
"I listen to them and we will work through what services are available and what the community feels they need,” Mr Henderson said.
Stoicism and stigma surrounding mental health could be two reasons men don't seek support, he said.
"If they don't work properly then their farm doesn't work properly, it's that simple,” Mr Henderson said.
The need to connect producers with drought assistance is not lessening over time.
While in Warwick yesterday, Member for Maranoa David Littleproud said the Southern Downs and Granite Belt had become the 'epicentre' of the drought in Queensland.
The outlook is not looking bright with little rain heading into winter.
"There's been some relieving rain in some areas but we haven't had it,” he said.
Mr Littleproud said the relentless dry was also affecting small businesses.
"I talk to small business owners and some are just holding on,” he said.
Through his role as Minister for Water Resources, Drought, Rural Finance, Natural Disaster and Emergency Management, Mr Littleproud said he would continue and build on support programs for drought-stricken residents.
Mr Henderson pressed that the severity of the drought had been building for some time.
"We haven't had a normal year in about three or four years and the rain deficit has accrued and the loss of income has accrued,” he said.
"There'll be a lot of pain when the season does break and that's where these programs are important, as people try and reinvent themselves.”
Mr Henderson urged anyone who was keen to represent the community and talk about the support that's needed to get in touch.
Phone Lifeline Darling Downs on 1300991443.